Series by Anna McCord and Rebecca Holmes for ODI.

What works for Africa’s poorest: programmes and policies for the extreme poor contains a unique cross-section of country-specific case studies from across sub-Saharan Africa, combined with cross-country analyses of important programmes, written by practitioners, academics, and advisers. It is essential reading for researchers and students studying poverty in international development and for policy makers and programme managers involved in poverty reduction programmes.

The role of public works in addressing poverty: lessons from recent developments in public works programming chapter, written by Anna McCord, explores recent innovations in public works programming in sub-Saharan Africa to address the challenge of social protection provision in contexts of chronic mass under- and unemployment. This explores recent innovations in public works (PW) programming in sub-Saharan Africa to address the challenge of social protection provision in contexts of chronic mass under- and unemployment. Three ongoing national programmes introduced in the mid-2000s are explored: the Ethiopian Productive Safety Nets Programme, the Rwandan Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme, and the South African Expanded Public Works Programme (PWP).

These have introduced a variety ofinnovations relating to the scale and duration of employment provided, the sectors in which employment is provided, the creation of performance incentives, and coordination with complementary interventions. While they aim to provide social protection which enables participants to graduate out of poverty, they are designed in recognition of the fact that mass graduation is unlikely in the short term given the structural determinants of poverty and under- and unemployment. The programmes still face challenges in providing effective social protection for the working-age poor, but nonetheless they offer valuable options for future programming and differ significantly from the conventional PWP approach adopted in the region.

Poverty reduction for Africa’s poorest: implementation and policy thoughts is written by Rebecca Holmes and discusses three institutional and policy challenges to implementing social protection at scale in Nigeria: fiscal decentralisation, limited capacity, and a weak governance context. It concludes with opportunities for future strengthening of the sector. Over 60 per cent of the population – 110 million people – live in poverty in Nigeria.

Recent policy responses to the high rates of poverty have included social protection initiatives, including cash transfers and health financing mechanisms. However, the development of a coordinated and strategic social protection system has stalled, resulting in fragmented programming and extremely low coverage of the poor. This chapter discusses three specific sets of institutional and policy challenges to implementing social protection at scale: fiscal decentralization, which impedes the equitable provision of funds to states; limited capacity to design appropriate programmes at the local level, and to deliver them at scale; and a weak governance context, which curtails transparency and accountability at all levels. Looking at the lessons learnt from the experiences of social protection policy and practice thus far, the chapter concludes by identifying a number of opportunities to develop and strengthen the emerging social protection sector in the future.

Read: The role of public works in addressing poverty: lessons from recent developments in public works programming; Poverty reduction for Africa’s poorest: implementation and policy thoughts

Photo: UNAMID (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)